Activist Teesta Setalvad may have had a bumpy ride from the start in her attempts to fight for justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots but recent cases foisted on her by the Gujarat police and Central Bureau of Investigation are being widely seen as a last ditch attempt by the state to stop her in her tracks.
Teesta’s defenders say accusations of embezzlement and embellished accounts of what the CBI found when it raided her home are aimed at diluting the potency of the Zakia Jafri petition her organisation is now taking to the Gujarat High Court in its attempt to indict Narendra Modi for complicity in the 2002 violence.
In the wake of claims made by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders about Teesta being “anti-national”, a former judge of the Gujarat City Civil and Sessions Court has reached out to Setalvad with a letter of support and also disclosed how the allegedly anti-Muslim bias of the state government during the Modi years prompted him to quit his job.
In a Facebook post, Himanshu Trivedi, who was a judge in the City Civil and Sessions Court from October 2002 to May 2003 has explained the nature of events that enveloped the judiciary in 2002 and after. His post highlights the structural coercion that has been the reason why scores of victims have still not had the chance to get justice.
Trivedi was a former colleague of Jyotsna Yagnik, the judge responsible for convicting Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi for the Naroda Patiya massacre, before he resigned on moral and ethical grounds and emigrated to New Zealand. His post reads as follows:
“Teesta Setalvad. Hats off. I have always admired you and your courage and outspokenness on these issues. I also take this opportunity to state that I am indeed pained (and I am the one who had QUIT Gujarat’s Judiciary. I was a district cadre judge in Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court – once a colleague of the bravest judge Ms Jyotsna Yagnik who handed out the judgments to Babu Bajrangi and Kodnani and now lives in fear of her life) … because they (the State of Gujarat) wanted us (the judges and the judiciary) of Gujarat to be acting against the minority community (albeit with no written orders but DEFINITELY communicated in loud and clear messages to us). I could not be part of it as I was sworn to the Constitution of India …”
In a subsequent email to Teesta, Trivedi revealed that there were many individuals who had communicated directly with members of the judiciary telling them to rule in a manner that would teach “these people” a lesson – a reference to the Muslim minority.
While Setalvad and Jafri intend to highlight before the High Court crucial information that they say the Special Investigation Team had ignored in giving Modi a clean chit for his role during the riots, Trivedi’s statements suggest the Gujarat state machinery was deployed to protect many of the perpetrators of the 2002 riots long after the violence had ended.